Monday, December 17, 2012

The Cinema File #63: "The 12 Disasters Of Christmas" Review

Maybe its the fact that I watched The 12 Disasters Of Christmas as part of a double feature with A Christmas Story 2, and the chasm in quality between them is leading me to give the former film more credit than it deserves, but thinking back on it, I'd say that as far as SyFy Channel Original movies go, this was slightly above average. That doesn't necessarily mean its any good mind you, keep in mind the standard we are working with, but like True Bloodthirst, this is definitely an effort from the network that was at least surprisingly watchable, which is more than I can say for most of their contributions to cinema.

The 12 Disasters Of Christmas follows a small town besieged by supernatural catastrophes leading up to the Mayan end of the world, as predicted in the ancient Christmas carol from which the film takes its name. Seriously, they actually incorporate it, its not just a movie about random horrible stuff happening at Christmas time. The 12 Drummers drumming are twelve dormant volcanoes set to erupt, and they need to find five magical Golden Rings in order to avert the apocalypse. It sounds silly, and let's face it, it is, but I thought it actually added an albeit cheesy level of ingenuity to what could otherwise have been a very boring movie about earthquakes and floods that just happens to take place as Christmas time.

I'm forced to acknowledge that despite the absurdity of the premise, combining the Mayan prophecy horror trope with the Christmas season is really kind of a novel idea, something so crazy, you'd think no one would bother trying it, but so crazy it just might work. It doesn't quite work, mostly for the reasons SyFy Channel movies typically fail to impress, but it comes closer than most, and at the very least succeeds in not sucking as much as I always expect these movies to. Its another movie of this type that is helped immensely by the actors involved trying their level best to take the material as seriously as possible and not wink at the camera every five minutes because they know how stupid it all really is. That doesn't make it less stupid, but it makes it easier to engage with it as something other than just farce.

Some of the disasters are actually pretty fun. After the first few that act as signs, birds dying, heat waves, water turning to blood, the first major revelation of apocalyptic power comes in the form of giant icicles falling from the sky that seem to have a way of finding and impaling people just when it is dramatically convenient or impactful (no pun intended). A lightning strike that seems to make electricity have a mind of its own, animating Christmas lights into killing machines, is kind of cool, even if it isn't explored as much as it could be, and I liked the eerie mist that freezes anything in its path, mostly because it represents the second time in the movie where a character designed purely for exposition is unceremoniously killed before they can reveal everything, actually forcing the main characters to figure some things out on their own. There's also an implication that the urge to sacrifice a young girl to the Gods as the Mayans did might just be one of the disasters, a sort of mystical force that is actually compelling the people to destroy the one thing that might save them, but it is not explored as much as it could have been.

Weirdly, I kind of wish they would have used more of the linkage between the disasters and the carol, as I'm not sure what the electricity or the freezing mist had to do with the song, and the latter is repeated later with some sort of flesh eating mist that feels like a waste of a set piece. Granted, a lot of the gifts in the song are just a series of different birds, which would have made for a boring disaster movie, but what about instead of water to blood, all the milk goes bad or all the cows die at once for the Maids a Milking? How about an earthquake that creates platforms one must jump across for Lords a Leaping, or instead of just a tornado, have it scoop up a group of woman who flail in the wind for Ladies Dancing? More thought could have been put into it is what I'm saying, but perhaps that is too much to ask.

That and an anti-climactic ending keep The 12 Disasters of Christmas from ultimately transcending the well earned stigma of SyFy's film division, but as "not really all that good" as the movie is, I can't say its the worst movie I've seen even just over this past week, which is saying something. It might just barely be worth a watch if you catch it on TV some night, but I wouldn't go seeking it out or anything.
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